Linux Foundation Takes a Bite Out of Sun

If you thought the Linux Foundation was just about spreading Linux Love and giving Linus a place to hack, fasten your seatbelt, because the gloves have come off and they're sharing just what they think.

The particular subject — or perhaps more appropriately, target — at hand is Sun Microsystems, and more specifically, its Solaris operating system. According to Jim Zemlin, LF Executive Director, Solaris — and the broader Unix-class of operating systems to which it belongs — are on their deathbed, gasping for one final, desperate breath. "The future is Linux and Microsoft Windows."

Solaris — which has been on the operating system scene since 1992 — has long been the flagship for Sun, garnering praise and a loyal following for both its design and renowned stability. Linux however, says Zemlin, is all-pervasive, particularly so in web development: "You can't really talk to any Web-based application company these days that's not using Linux." Solaris, on the other hand, is "on the decline," and Sun should just pack it in, license the few useful bits of its operating system under the GPL, and raise the white flag. Not that there is really that much to offer, mind you: 'The only people I hear talk about DTrace and ZFS as competitive features [are] Sun Microsystems sales representatives. It's not something I believe is impacting the market in any way."

Sun, of course, sees things quite differently, noting that they've seen customers returning to Solaris after trying Linux. That's not to say they haven't learned a thing or two from Linux. The OS has a community-driven Open Source version — the aptly-named OpenSolaris — which Sun plans to utilize in much the same way as the Red Hat-Fedora relationship. There are also plans to merge it's commercial development with OpenSolaris sometime next year, and adopt an Ubuntu-like development schedule, offering Sun-supported OpenSolaris releases every six months — interestingly enough, utilizing the same April/October scheme as Ubuntu — as well as a LTS-like Solaris release with 10-year support. Says Sun's Solaris marketing Director, Charlie Boyle: "I think we've got a great future."

Back at LF headquarters, Mr. Zemlin isn't buying any of it. In his opinion, OpenSolaris is "too little, too late" — interestingly enough, having begun in 2005, two years before the Linux Foundation came to be — with no actual community, merely an attempt to suck unsuspecting users into buying commercial offerings from Sun. Boyle — as one might expect — disagrees, saying there is "a great community around OpenSolaris" which is "growing every month."

What can't be disputed, at least in our mind, is Sun's commitment to Open Source. Beyond OpenSolaris, which Sun reps have estimated may have been downloaded as many as a million times, Sun is also responsible for Open Sourcing the code behind the wildly-popular OpenOffice and for releasing a GPL version of VirtualBox — reportedly the third-most-popular virtualization package for Linux. That's not to forget, of course, that Sun owns MySQL as well — and despite a hiccup or two, hasn't sucked any unsuspecting users into coughing up cash for proprietary packaging.

Of course, there is also their support for Linux, which among other things, includes being a Silver Member — the same level as Adobe, Canonical, Dell, and Red Hat — of the Linux Foundation.

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